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Internships in ITaP Research Computing’s Scientific Solutions Group boost student success

  • Science Highlights

As an undergraduate in computer science, Paul Steele never expected to be working with genomic data, but he found himself doing just that during an internship with ITaP Research Computing.

Steele, who graduated from Purdue earlier this year, worked with Research Computing’s Scientific Solutions Group, led by ITaP senior research scientist Carol Song, through the Discovery Park Undergraduate Research Internship (DURI) program.

His project centered around the Diagrid BLASTer tool, which allows a user to configure and run BLAST searches on Purdue’s community clusters to compare large sets of genomic information. Steele’s task was to improve the output of the tool, removing redundancy and making the information more useful.

“It was definitely a worthwhile experience for me,” Steele says of his internship, adding that he enjoyed applying what he’d learned in his computer science classes to a topic he never thought he would study.

Abilene Perez also worked with the ITaP group through the DURI program. Perez, a sophomore majoring in user experience design, worked to improve the usability of the GeoBuilder tool on the Geospatial Analysis Building Blocks (GABBs) project. GeoBuilder is an online tool for creating maps from multiple geospatial datasets and analyzing and visualizing the data, and does not require any programming on the user’s part. A user could, for example, use it to map regions of Indiana with the highest rates of flooding.

To improve the user-friendliness of the tool, Perez observed users as they worked with it to see what challenges they experienced. She took the data from those studies and worked with a student developer to implement changes to GeoBuilder.

Her work led to an internship with HP Enterprise, where she has been working since January redesigning the user interface of a compatibility tool for one of the company’s storage systems. She’s directly applying what she learned working on GeoBuilder.

“I would absolutely recommend it,” says Perez of her Research Computing internship. “I learned a lot working there.”

Luke Policinski worked with the Scientific Solutions Group for about six months while an undergraduate. He worked on the Useful2Usable (U2U) project's AgClimate View, a tool for viewing historical climate data. Policinski developed code that gives a user the ability to click on different weather stations to download and search data.

He credits his experience at Research Computing with giving him important experience beyond his Purdue classes and helping him obtain his current position as a web developer at FORCE Communications, where he builds applications for medical companies.

Undergraduates aren’t the only ones who’ve benefitted from Research Computing internships. Rajesh Kalyanam joined the Scientific Solutions group while working on his PhD in electrical and computer engineering and put his experience in software development to use for the team, building websites and software for managing and analyzing geospatial data.

After graduating with his doctorate, he accepted a full-time position as a software engineer with Research Computing, working for the Scientific Solutions group. He says he especially enjoys the flexibility to work on projects of his choosing, and the freedom to write papers, put forth new ideas for funding opportunities and attend scientific conferences.

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